People: Sharon regrets Arafat lived to fight another day

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TIME has not softened Israel's former defence chief, Ariel Sharon. He regrets that Israel failed in its 'great efforts' to assassinate the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat.

General Sharon, speaking on the 12th anniversary of the invasion of Lebanon, said Mr Arafat became untouchable during the war after Israel agreed to a US-brokered withdrawal of Mr Arafat and Palestinian guerrillas from Beirut.

'Because of this (pull-out), we could not 'hit' him,' lamented the general, who was the architect of the campaign that forced the PLO out of Lebanon . 'All Israeli governments, from the left and what is called the right, made great efforts to 'hit' this person, who is a war criminal in every respect,' said General Sharon, who wants to stand for prime minister.

'I am sorry we did not succeed,' he said. During the conflict, General Sharon repeatedly asked Mossad intelligence for precise details of Mr Arafat's movements in Lebanon. At one moment, an Israeli sniper apparently had Mr Arafat in his sights during the PLO's ceremonial evacuation of Beirut, but it was deemed politically unwise to shoot him, since Israel believed he had been humiliated anyway by defeat.

THE General will hardly be overjoyed to learn that Vanessa Redgrave, who once called on her show-business colleagues to boycott Israeli theatre and cinema in solidarity with the Palestinians, plans to perform in Israel next month. What is more, she will be playing the role of a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany.

Oded Kutler, director of the Haifa theatre - which is known for staging controversial political plays - says: 'It's a chance to see a great artist on stage, and could do the country good.' Redgrave will appear in Brecht in Exile, a selection of Brecht's works written when he was an exile from Nazi Germany.

She is willing, Kutler said, to face her Israeli critics at a press conference. 'She has her beliefs. But the main body of her work is to be a great actress.'

SO IT'S fade to black for 'Pineapple Face'. The film director Oliver Stone has abandoned plans for a movie about the former Panamanian strongman, Manuel Noriega, starring Al Pacino, saying its dollars 40m ( pounds 26.7m) budget was too much of a gamble.

Stone investigated locations in Central America and talked to Noriega in his Miami prison cell, but became frustrated by a 'lack of conclusions about Noriega', who 'is not easily understood'.

He concluded: 'It's too risky. The real story is too complicated.'

(Photograph omitted)